Mid Jun 2008
Belatedly and now somewhat hurriedly, here I am with another bulletin.
- FOLK WEEKEND SUCCESS. The general consensus is that our recent Folk Weekend was a roaring success. The sun shone sweetly on us during Saturday and while Sunday was cool and grey it did at least stay dry. We had music and song pretty much continuously in all four spaces on both days and rooms were often packed full. Things were still going strong in the session and singaround late into Sunday evening and the pub even decided to keep the bar open an extra hour! Everyone seemed to have a fun time and there was a lovely, positive atmosphere all weekend.
(Anonymous) selections from the feedback I have received have been posted on the website (www.blackswanfolkclub.org.uk) and a selection of photos should follow soon.
Heartfelt thanks go to everyone who performed over the weekend and to the posse of volunteers who helped keep the show on the road, as MCs, stewards and general dogsbodies. In particular, I would like to thank Chris and his colleague Ben, together with their York College students, who did a great non-stop job on the marquee sound desk. And of course it would all have been impossible without the Black Swan’s obliging landlord, Mike Dobson, and his hardworking staff – especially Julia and her sons, Mark, Vicky, Bryony and Nush.
We’ll hold a post mortem meeting sometime after the summer holiday season, to review this year’s event and plan the next one. I don’t want to pre-empt that meeting (the date of which I will announce in a future newsletter), but I’d be amazed if people didn’t want to do it all over again next year. If we stick with the same two-day format at the same time of year, then City of Folk Weekend 2009 would be on 30th and 31st May. Mark it in your diaries NOW!
- NORTH RIDING DOUBLE BILL. If you were in the Marquee or the Rolling Folk Club on the Saturday afternoon you probably saw Wendy Arrowsmith singing. She returns to the Black Swan this Thursday (19th) as one half of a Double Bill event. Wendy was born and raised in Scotland but has been living in North Yorkshire for a while now and is making quite a name for herself as an active, hard-working and above all talented singer. She performs both traditional Scottish and Irish songs and some excellent self-penned numbers, one of which won the Songwriting Competition at last summer’s Saltburn Folk Festival.
Sharing the billing on Thursday night are Mary Vipond & Andy Whittaker, regulars at the monthly Folk Club in Stokesley. Mary & Andy have rolled up at quite a few Black Swan Singers Nights in recent years and have always impressed us with their wide selection of songs, strong singing and solid accompaniments, so we look forward to an extended set by them. Stan Graham is MC, doors open as usual at 8.00 and entry is £6 (or £5 for concessions).
- ALL PERFORMERS WELCOME. Our next Singers & Musicians Night takes place on 26th June and as always we welcome all manner of performers. I’ll be absent for this one (on holiday leave) but David Kidman will be acting as MC and Stan Graham will be taking over my customary place at the door.
- JULY IS INTERNATIONAL MONTH. The Black Swan has always had a fairly cosmopolitan booking policy – only last week we had a fascinating evening of American folk songs with the US musician Jeff Warner – and in July we bring in guest performers from Australia (twice) and South Africa. Even the one English artist (Simon Hopper, 17th July) is from Lancashire and now lives in London, which Yorkshire folk might say amounts to being foreign as well!
Miriam Backhouse (July 3rd) was a favourite singer on the UK folk circuit in the 70s and early 80s. Indeed, it is amazing how many people, seeing her name in our programme, have told me they remember her fondly from those days. Marriage then took her off to South Africa and for over twenty years nothing more was heard. Lately, however, she has begun to make summer trips to Britain, reviving old friendships and singing as sweetly as ever, with her British and American folk repertoire now augmented by some African songs. Chris Euesden is one of those who remember “Mim” of old and he’ll be acting as MC for this night.
Wongawilli the following week (July 10th), sound like being a real treat. A five piece concert and dance band from down under, they specialise in songs and dance tunes of rural Australia, with a line-up which includes fiddle, accordion, piano, lagerphone (hands up who knows what that is!) and percussion, with some of the latter played by 11-year old Sam de Santi. They are at the big Skagen Festival in Denmark the weekend before, and at Ulverston Folk Festival the weekend after, so we were lucky to pick up a small club date on their journey between the two.
Australian music continues with Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton on July 31st, but I should have another newsletter out well before then. Meanwhile, I attach to this mailing the brochure “blurbs” for all our summer guest nights.
- NCEM AUTUMN SEASON FINALISED. Five folk concerts have been scheduled for the autumn season at the National Centre for Early Music, and you may want to put these dates in your diary now, even though booking will not open until early September. There are return visits by Rachel Unthank & The Winterset on Monday 20th October and by Emily Smith on Tuesday 25th November. We are proud to present the York debut of American singer Tim O’Brien on Saturday 15th November, and we offer an intriguing Double Bill on Friday 3rd October which combines folk string quartet Methera and the new “supertrio” Kerr Fagan Harbron. Those four concerts are all being run by the Folk Club while the NCEM themselves get in on the act by promoting Jo Freya’s Lal Waterson Project on Tuesday 2nd December. All told, another nicely varied concert season, I think.
So much for the Folk Club’s own activities. Next, news of three other forthcoming York concerts which might appeal to you:
- UNION CENTRAL. Britain’s foremost Alison Krauss bluegrass tribute band, Union Central, who turned in a grand Saturday afternoon set at Folk Weekend, are back in action at the Black Swan on Saturday 28th June. Doors open at 8.00 for an 8.30 start and entry is £ 5 at the door. More info from Phil on 01904 783029.
- DEBASHISH BHATTACHARYA. The last of the current run of World Sound concerts at the National Centre for Early Music takes place on Tuesday 1st July and presents Indian classical music on guitar by Debashish Bhattacharya. He is rated one of the world’s most outstanding slide guitarists and he has collaborated with such other guitarists as Martin Simpson, John McLaughlin and Bob Brozman. Tickets are £12 (concessions £10) through the Box Office at www.ncem.co.uk or on 016904 658338.
- YORK SONGWRITERS CIRCLE. For their next public concert, the members of the Songwriters Circle are moving over to The Junction on Leeman Road in York, another of the city’s lively music pubs. “New Singers, New Songs” is on Sunday 13th July, with doors open 7.30 for an 8.00 start, entry £ 3. Those taking part include (in no particular order) Tim Pheby, John Storey, Sarah Dean, David Swann, Belle Union, Paula Ryan and Stan Graham. For more info or to reserve a ticket, call 07933 239133.
Next, a miscellany of other news items:
- LIKEWISE HAXBY MEMORIAL HALL. Haxby correspondent Peter Turner is keen to increase use of the village’s Memorial Hall, which holds 100 seated or 200 standing, and he wonders if there are “any artists willing to perform for free to raise money for redeveloping the hall, which needs renovating”. Just as much as fund- raising, Peter is keen to spark more interest in folk music in the Haxby district. One thing which occurred to me was that this might be a suitable venue for ceilidhs and dances, for which there is a dearth of suitable premises in York city centre. If anyone wants to follow up on this, they can speak to Peter on 01904 765257 or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- DANCER SEEKS DANCES. Staying with folk dances, an occasional club visitor (“a homesick Scot hoping for some good dancing”) writes to me asking if I know of any ceilidhs or similar events taking place in or near York. If you are involved in playing for or promoting such an event (which is open to the general public) then perhaps you could contact email@example.com. And I’d be happy to publicise such events in this newsletter too, so long as I get sufficient notice.
- DANCING UNDER THREAT. It seems that ritual sword dancing risks getting caught up in the government’s latest attempts to control knife crime through the Violent Crimes Reduction Bill, which would prohibit the sale and use of items such as swords unless for sporting activities or historical re-enactment, neither of which exemptions recognises traditional dance. Of course, dancing “swords” aren’t really swords at all, but try telling that to a civil servant! There is a petition about this issue on the Downing Street website which you are urged to support, but do so quickly, since the closing date is 25th June: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/dancers/
COUNTRY PUB SEEKS LIVE MUSIC. Is anyone out there looking for a nice country pub in which to hold a folk evening? I have been approached by the owners of the The Three Hares Country Inn & Restaurant at Bilbrough, which is just off the A64, four miles west of York, saying they would like to host folk events. “We are a good quality real ale pub in a beautiful village”, they say, with “a lovely terrace area, car parking and a large grassy area – and our food is excellent”. If you are interested, you can contact Valerie and David Devonald on 01937 832128 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m running out of time, so I’ll end with a quick look at some out-of-town events.
- KIRKBY FLEETHAM FOLK CLUB BOUNCES BACK. Sadly, the lively new club established by Paul & Wendy Arrowsmith less than a year ago in Kirkby Fleetham, near Northallerton, has lost its venue with the abrupt closure of the village pub (which apparently seldom made a profit except on folk events!). Undeterred, the valiant organisers are moving operations to the Village Hall, starting this Saturday (21st) with John Conolly and Doghouse Roses. There will also be an afternoon concert and singaround in a marquee on the spacious village green. Both venues are unlicensed, so take your own refreshments. After having a summer break, KFFC will then relaunch on 20th September. Find out more from Paul via email@example.com – or indeed speak to him and Wendy at the Black Swan this Thursday.
- HELMSLEY ARTS CENTRE OPEN MIC. I’ve also been asked to mention the monthly “open mic” night for folk and acoustic music at the Old Meeting House Arts Centre in Helmsley. Occasional Black Swan visitor Ron Whisker writes of the last one “a very good night it was ... a good mixture of folk, country, blues ... well attended”. The next session is on Friday 27th June at 7.30 and you can find out more from the organiser, Eve, on 01439 771102).
- FOLK IN THE LIBRARY. Some of you will know that by day I am a librarian (shock! horror!). My colleagues at Richmond Library ask me to tell you that they are having a Singing In The Library event on Wednesday 2nd July at 7.00 with Wendy Arrowsmith (that woman gets everywhere!) and John Wilson. “Come and enjoy the music making of two talented local singer/guitarists, and hear how they approach songwriting” says the flyer. Admission is free but places should be booked in advance by ringing Richmond Library on 0845 034 9508. Wine and nibbles will be provided.
- NORMA, MARTIN & CHRIS IN NORTHALLERTON. My last item is a long way off, but I have been specifically asked to mention it now. Once again, there is a connection with my day-job as the organiser also works in the North Yorkshire library service! Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and Chris Parkinson will be in concert in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support at the Methodist Church in Northallerton on Saturday 4th October at 7.30. Tickets are £10 in advance – ring Ann on 01609 772620 (evenings) for details, or visit Greensleeves Music Shop in the town.
There are more things I could have mentioned, but I really must draw to a close. Keep on supporting live music.